A Scots uni has come under fire from animal rights campaigners after killing more than 18,000 fish meant for scientific experiments.
The University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture has admitted culling thousands of the animals after experimental work was put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic last year.
The university revealed the mass cull came in 2020, when it used more than 12,000 live fish in its “vital” quest to tackle issues like food security and conservation.
But the figures, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, were branded “disappointing” by activists campaigning for an end to all animal testing in Scotland.
The university confirmed it used 12,214 fish “for research purposes”, saying 18,523 fish that were “not used in research were humanely euthanised”.
The institute also graded the severity of the experiments using Home Office guidance monitoring the pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm on animals, saying there was one case ranked as “severe”, 2,957 classed as “moderate” and 9,256 as “mild”.
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Scots animal cruelty campaigners OneKind condemned the revelation.
Director Bob Elliot said: “We are very disappointed to learn that the University of Stirling experimented on 12,214 animals in 2020. It also concerns us that a further 18,523 fish were killed without being used for research purposes.
“OneKind seeks an end to the use of all animals in experiments.
“In our animal welfare manifesto for the 2021 Scottish elections, we are urging the Scottish Government to promote rapid development and utilisation of alternatives to animal research and 75% of Brits think more needs to be done on this.”
A UK Government report last year revealed live animal testing had fallen to its lowest level since 2007 with 3.4 million procedures carried out in 2019, however, a number of Scottish universities continue to use animals in their research.
Edinburgh University chiefs were criticised in January for its use of a test on anti-depressants which forces small animals to keep swimming in water-filled beakers from which they can’t escape.
Stirling University says it employs a wide range of “non-animal experimental techniques” and promotes the reduction of animals in research but conducts a small amount of regulated research involving fish.
A University spokeswoman said: “At the University of Stirling, we conduct regulated research with one group of animals (fish) in line with UK government legislation.
“Fish are used in scientific research as they provide key insights into diseases like cancer and heart disease in humans, as well as animal diseases and improved farming practices.
“Research involving live fish is conducted by our Institute of Aquaculture, where no suitable alternatives are available. This research covers major global problems of food security, conservation, social, economic and environmental sustainability.
“All fish are housed and cared for by an expert team including veterinarians and animal care and welfare officers.
“Our work has been restricted by Covid-19 during the last year. As a result, some planned experiments, including those involving juvenile fish, have had to be cancelled or postponed. In compliance with animal welfare legislation the fish that were no longer required for experiments and not suitable for human food were humanely euthanised.”